The legend and the rediscovery of the pearl
The earlyest writings about the pearl orginate from China, India,
and Ceylon prior to the widely practiced peartl-cult of the Romans.
According to an ancient Hindu book dated 1000 B.C., the Rigveda
mentions "Krishna bringing up pearls for his daughter's weddig
deep from the ocean." The Romans historian Linius Secundus
considered pearls the most valuable gifts during the first Century
B.C. . To amuse Antonius, Cleopatra proved her huge wealth by
dissolving an invaluable pearl in a glass of vinegar, and then,
by drinking the slolution.
The cult of the pearl is thousands of years old and the tradition
of this cult is very much alive today, at the treshold of the
21st century. 1996 is considered the year of the pearl's return
to the world of fashion. This spectacular figt of nature becomes
the focus of the media while women suddenly find an irresistible
value in its charm. As of today, the pearl's growing popularity
contnues to be unbroken thanks to its spectacular, mystical and
The pears's magical influence upon women can be best appreciated
in Adler's quote:
"In its depth is the magical powr as the human eye is unable
to rest upon it's surface. Consider is warning! Like the warm
and dark torpical ocean of the night, the Tahitian pearl irresistibly
draws you into is self"
There are several types of the "
true" cultured pearl
Even today, pearls grow without human intervention but only
one in about every twenty-thousandth shell. Like a precious "stone"
of the aquatic medium, pearl can grow in fresh or salt water oystes.
Growing cultured pears in fresh water dates back into antiquity.
95% of the world's pearl supply is grown in the fresh water pearl-farms
of Japan, USA and of China.
There are about 70 species of shells capable of growing pearls
in sea or salt water. Most of these belong to the Pinctada species.
Some shell ar valuable and sought for their outer shell while
others are sought for the pearl that can be found inside of them.
Two groups of shell belong to the latter types:
- the Pinctada Martensii or Fucata shellfish that are indigenous
to the waters of Japan, China and Korea-teh Akoya pearls grow
- The Pinctada Maxima and the Margaritifera belong to the second
gorup of shellfish, and they are indigenous to the waters of the
Mikimoto developed the technology for growing cultured pearls
by using the Pinctada Martensii shellfish. The future of the Akoya
pearl from Japan is gradually overshadowed by concerns of environmental
pollution and the growing production of an increasingly better
quality and more attractive sweet-water pearl form China. It takes
after the Japanese Akoya but the substantially less expensive
Chinese pearl often misleads the specialist and has a competitive
edge on the market.
The pearls of the South Seas
Among the giant shells of the Pinctada family grows a pearl which
is justly and respectfully called "queen of all pearls."
The giant Pinctada Maxima lives in waters 20-100 meters deep and
is indigenous to the shores Thailand, Indonesia, th Philipoines,
Papua New Guinea and Horthern Australia. On the other hand, the
Margaritifera is indigenous to the coral reefs found in the
turquoise water of French Polynesia. These Types of pearls are
of considerable sizes and they are breathtakingly beautiful with
their forever changing shades of colors. Because of their thick
layers they are most durable but they can only be found in limited
numbers. For these reasons, they are sought after by prestigious
jewelers and by customers with high standards and better than
Most of the pearls that grow in the shells of the silever and
gold necked Pinctada Maximaare, are produded on the farms of the
Australian, Indonesian and Philippines Islands. Their harvest
exceeds 7 tons annually. The black-lipped Pinctada Margaritifer
shellfish is indigenous to the pearl farms of the French-Polynesian
Tuamotu islands; the harvest of the special pearl that grows in
these shells is around 6 tons annuallywhereas the first-class
output does not exceed more than 60 kilograms. It takes several
millions of dollars to start and maintain an average size pearl
farm. Before the first harvest of the pearls, there is a waiting
period of 5-6 years duing which dangers like pollution, viruses,
hurricanes and cyclones can cause severe damage or even a fatal
blow to the shells.
Growing the Tahitian pearl
The implantation process necessary for growing or producing pearls
is usullay done by Japanese masters. Taking the epitherlial tissue
form another shell, cutting it into 3x3 mm pieces, teh master
places the cut tissue tohether with a special nucleus. The nucleus
is derived from the shell of the Pig-foot-toe oyster. If the implantation
is successful, the shellfish will build or grow onto the nucleus
layers composed of calcium-carbonate (aaragonite), organic proteins
and other minerals derived from the sea water. The more layers,
the mor beautiful th inner glitter and higher the value of the
Usually the shellfish will expel more than half of the fertilized
nucleus whose maturing and birth will take place on the cut-tissue
pieces. This will result in the formation of "keshi,"
a small, shapeless pearl. It isn't very Valuable but because of
its unusual form, jeweler-designer find it interesting to work
In the case of the "half-pearl" or "mabé,"the
nucleus isplaced under teh cut-tissue onto the wall of the shellfish
where the usual maturing will occur. After the period of maturing,
the "mabét" is cut-out form the wall of the shell, placed
on a piece of shell of similar shade. After grinding and polishing
it, the goldsmith builds it into a setting.
What determines the value of the pearl?
First and foremost supply and demand! At the present, salt-water
pearls are the most expensive, especially the South Sea Pearls
like the Pinctada Maxima and the Margaritifera.
In the case of the Pinctada Maxima, pearls wiht pink shades are
more valuable. The demand for and the interest in a certain color
of th Tahitian Pinctada Margaritifera pearl is constantly changing.
At Sotheby's auctions the gray and black shades pearls were in
the greatest demand for many years. Begining a few years back,
however, there has been a gerater interest in the pearls wiht
Objective factors in evaluation
Depending upon its diameter, the value of the pearl exponentially
grows; the price of a first class pearl of 14 millimeters in diameter
can reach mor than $7,000.
The reflection of the light form the surface of the pearl can
also be determining factor; the geater the reflection, the greater
the value of the pearl.
A pearl can be classified first class with a lfawless surface
or a maxomum of 1 or 2 visible flaws on less than 10% of the surface.
As the number of surface unevenness, craters, dips or runs increases,
the value of the pearl decreases
The perfect spherical, ball shaped pearl is the most valuable.
In addition, there are the half spherical, the button, the pear,
the drop, the rib-shaped and the so called baroque forms. Very
popular ar the rib-shaped (or circular) pearls and they are usually
used in the making of pendants.
We wear pearls because they are beautiful and they enhance our
looks and attractiveness. However, in order to enjoy their aesthetic
value, we have to take care of them in certain proper way. Since
pearls contain water and proteins they should not be stored in
dry and sunny places; they could dry out and crack. Pearls are
especially sensitive to chemicals and acids because of the aragonite
crystals they contain, consequently, they should be rinsed in
salt water and wiped with a soft cloth. Pearls should not be stoered
with other jewelry because they could be easily scratched. Perfume,
hair or nail lacquer and other acid or alkaline liquids should
never be in contact with the pearl. In order to make sure the
settings of your pearl is firm and the string of your pearls is
not weakened or worn, On yearly bases, you should have your jeweler
examine your pearl ornaments in order to make sure the settings
of your pearl is firm or the string threading of your pearls is
not weakened or worn.